MADISON, Wis. -- The Milwaukee Brewers were $133 million in
debt at the end of 2003, but their revenues have increased more
than 70 percent since taxpayer-financed Miller Park opened,
according to two reports released Thursday.
The family of baseball commissioner Bud Selig owns the majority
interest in the team, which is up for sale.
Several state lawmakers called for a full-fledged public audit,
something the Brewers long resisted, when spending on players'
salaries decreased after the new stadium was built in 2001. The
Brewers opened their books to state auditors and the Metropolitan
Milwaukee Association of Commerce.
The Legislative Audit Bureau's limited-scope review of the
team's finances between 1994 and 2003 found the club had $67.7 million in
revenues in 2000. That jumped to $115.9 million in 2003, their
third season in Miller Park.
Still, operating expenses increased from $80 million in 2000 to
$103.8 million in 2003, the report said.
"Overall, for the people who had questions about the club's
finances, this answers those questions," said Rick Schlesinger,
the Brewers' executive vice president of business operations.
A copy of the deal between the Brewers and state auditor Janice
Mueller obtained by The AP in January shows the Brewers restricted
the audit in several ways. One restriction: Expenses and revenues
wouldn't be itemized but instead lumped into broad categories. For
example, the local revenue category would include money taken in
from tickets, concessions, parking and suites but wouldn't list
specific amounts from each.
State auditors said they found no evidence to show that club
resources had been used during the review to buy ownership shares
to benefit club owners.
According to the review by the commerce association, the Brewers
averaged $53.2 million in operating revenues during the seven-year
period before Miller Park opened. The team averaged $110.1 million
in revenues during the first three years Miller Park was open. That
increase was due largely to a $39.8 million increase in revenues
such as gate receipts, concession sales, parking, and local
broadcasting and advertising, that review said.
Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer, one of the lawmakers who
called for the review, said it shows the team faces "significant
financial challenges even with a new ballpark."
"These challenges are likely to continue, especially if the
product on the field does not improve," Panzer said in a
The state audit also found that the combined annual pay for
Selig, his daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb, and her husband, Laurel
Prieb, never exceeded $735,500 in any of the last 10 years.
Selig-Prieb is chairman of the Brewers' board, and Prieb is a team
The Brewers issued a statement saying the team's losses and debt
reflect general trends in professional baseball. Industry debt grew
from $751 million in 1994 to $3.6 billion in 2003, the team said.
The statement said the team continues to rebuild its baseball
roster through a strong minor league system.
The payroll for the Brewers' 2004 Opening Day roster was about
$27.5 million, the lowest of the 30 major league teams. Through
Wednesday, Milwaukee was 13-14, tied for last place in the NL Central.
The Brewers pledged higher payrolls and better teams when they
won approval from state lawmakers in the 1990s to have taxpayers in
a five-county area foot most of the bill for the $413 million Miller Park.
But the Brewers' payrolls have declined the last two seasons and
the club hasn't had a winning season since 1992. The team traded
away its best player, All-Star first baseman Richie Sexson, late last year.
Assembly speaker John Gard, who called for the state review,
said the team's financial situation shows the Brewers' best hope is
"Unfortunately, the kind of ownership size, structure and
resources that worked for decades is a horse-and-buggy in today's
turbocharged baseball marketplace," Gard said.